3 things you need to know about the ASEAN-US Maritime Exercise 2019

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04 Sep 2019 | OPS & TRAINING

3 things you need to know about the ASEAN-US Maritime Exercise 2019

// Report by Benita Teo

// Photos by Chua Soon Lye & Kenneth Lin and courtesy of RSN

The Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) is taking part in the inaugural ASEAN-US Maritime Exercise (AUMX) from 2 to 6 Sep. It will be part of 1,000 personnel and eight ships from the 10 ASEAN nations and United States (US) participating in a series of maritime exercises in the Gulf of Thailand. Here's what you need to know:

RSS Tenacious (foreground) sailing alongside the Myanmar Navy’s frigate UMS King Kyan Sitt Thar en route to the Gulf of Thailand, where they carried out drills in manoeuvring.

1) It is the first maritime exercise between the ASEAN navies and the United States Navy (USN).

Delegates and officers of the ASEAN members states and US, at the exercise opening ceremony in Sattahip Naval Base, Thailand, on 2 Sep. The AUMX co-directors are Vice-Admiral Chareonpol Koomrasi from the Royal Thai Navy and Rear-Admiral Kenneth R. Whitesell from the US Navy (sixth and seventh from left).

This year's AUMX is co-organised by the Royal Thai Navy (RTN) and United States Navy (USN). The exercise is themed Enhancing shared awareness and interoperability in the maritime domain.

"Most of the ASEAN countries, including Singapore, are maritime nations, and we depend on the seas and maritime trade for our survival and prosperity. In this aspect, the USN is a partner in safeguarding maritime security in our region," said Colonel (COL) Lim Yu Chuan, Commander of First Flotilla and Commanding Officer of the RSN's 185 Squadron.

"This inaugural AUMX provides an important opportunity for us to build trust and confidence, and more importantly, allows us to strengthen our ability to work with one another in responding to maritime security threats at sea."

The AUMX will allow the countries to respond swiftly in a maritime crisis, said COL Lim at the opening ceremony.

The AUMX Co-Exercise Director, Vice-Admiral Chareonpol Koomrasi, Chief of Staff of the Royal Thai Fleet, said: "(We want) to foster increased cooperation in maintaining maritime security, focusing on preventing and pre-empting possible wrongdoing at sea by exchanging information, promoting awareness (of the) working environment and adhering to international laws."

His counterpart, Rear-Admiral Kenneth R. Whitesell, reiterated the need for cooperation. The US Pacific Fleet Deputy Commander said: "The coordination with our partner countries and countries participating with us is critical. As we operate together, we develop trust with each other (and) understand each other's capabilities."

"This exercise allows us to train together, so that if we do join up together, then we have an understanding of how we are going to operate together. That's why this exercise is so critical. It's not just the US, it is ASEAN as a collective whole operating together," he added.

The conduct of the AUMX was agreed on by the 12th ASEAN Defence Ministers' Meeting (ADMM) in 2018, under Singapore's Chairmanship of the ADMM.


2) The RSN's Information Fusion Centre Real-time Information-sharing System (IRIS) is playing a key role in the coordination of the AUMX.

RSN and other multinational participants using IRIS, a Web-based information-sharing system, at the RSN’s Changi Command and Control Centre to track and identify vessels of interest.

Launched in May, IRIS is a Web-based information-sharing system comprising the fused Recognised Maritime Picture that collates information from multiple sources on ships plying the region, as well as a chat function that allows users to communicate via text messages and to share image files.

The Exercise Shore Headquarters at the Changi Command and Control Centre (C2C) will make use of IRIS in leading the Maritime Domain Awareness Cell (MDAC).

The participating ships will use IRIS in their sea exercises, such as tracking and identifying vessels of interest (VOIs).

IRIS plays an important role in building the maritime situation picture at sea, said Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) Christopher Chang, Assistant Chief of Staff of the MDAC.

He explained: "IRIS is deployed as the primary information-sharing and coordination platform for the exercise. Because it is Web-based, even ships at sea can access it and achieve common situation awareness with the operation centres ashore."

LTC Chang (standing, third from right) explaining the functions of IRIS to liaison officers at the Exercise Shore Headquarters.

The speed with which IRIS could share information and data impressed Lieutenant Jofel Besa.

The Maritime Domain Liaison Officer for the Philippine Navy is stationed at the Changi C2C, where she acts as the liaison between the Philippine Navy’s shore headquarters and its ship participating in the exercise.

"The information-sharing is faster and more reliable for the participating countries," she said. "The (sharing of) information is centralised, so whenever we need information, we can get it quickly."

Lieutenant Besa found that IRIS made information-sharing between ship and headquarters and among vessels at sea faster and more reliable.

3) The eight participating ships are conducting a series of exercises at sea to test their interoperability.

RSS Tenacious (foreground) sailing alongside the Myanmar Navy’s frigate UMS King Kyan Sitt Thar.

The RSN's Formidable-class frigate, RSS Tenacious, is taking part in the sea phase of the AUMX, as part of a task group together with the Myanmar Navy. Together, they will carry out drills such as manoeuvring exercises and put their communications to the test with flag signals.

RSS Tenacious displaying the signal flags to communicate with other ships out at sea.

"(These exercises) are important in building interoperability in responding to maritime security threats at sea," said COL Lim.

Using IRIS, the eight ships will also work together to track vessels of interests as well as conduct boarding and search exercises on suspicious vessels.

International navy personnel on board RTN ship HTMS Krabi, which is the afloat task force headquarters for the AUMX. Here, they are using IRIS in a Commander Update Brief.
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